Social Impacts, Consequences of Digital Divide: Income, Education

Over the past two decades, technology has become an integral part of educational success as well as workforce and community development. It is no secret that having adequate access to computers and the internet is essential to completely immerse one’s self in the economic, political, and social aspects of the world. However, geographical, income-based, and racial/ethnic disparities in access to technology continue to persist. The growing gap between those who have sufficient knowledge of and access to technology and those who do not is referred to as the “digital divide”.

Two effects of this divide are an inability of many students to participate in required school assignments and activities, as well a lack of access to vital educational and skill-development resources and opportunities, both of which serve to perpetuate socioeconomic and other disparities for already underprivileged groups.

Students in the United States rely on technology every single day to fully participate in their academics. As education delivery becomes more and more dependent on web-based technologies, students with less access to these tools are put at an ever-increasing disadvantage.

In education, the digital divide is often referred to as the “homework gap” because of the challenges that students in technology deficient circumstances face when attempting to complete their homework.

A report released by the Federal Communication Commission’s Broadband Task Force in 2009 stated that 70% of teachers assign homework that requires internet access to complete.

However, 31% of households with school-aged children and an income of less than $50,000 a year do not have a broadband connection at home.

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This group makes up 40% of U.S. families with school-aged children. For those with a household income over $50,000, only 8.4% are without broadband at home. Those without, surely face immense difficulties in completing their digital assignments.

A study released by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, myCollegeOptions, and the Family Online Safety Institute in 2015 showed that, nationally, 42% of students have received a lower or failing grade due to lack of internet access . Lack of broadband at home is undoubtedly hindering the education of these students.

This educational disparity is easily seen when comparing the statements of two different students who took part in the study mentioned above. A Hispanic, female, high school senior in the Midwest said, “It is difficult at times to complete assignments at home without the internet. Usually, I’ll try to do much at school by skipping lunch or arriving at school early to finish the assignment by connecting to the internet there.”

On the other hand, a white, female, high school freshman in the south stated, “At my school, every student has a laptop. 5th-12th graders get to bring their laptops home each night, weekend, and break. I think the one-on-one technology really helps our students and I would encourage it in all schools.”  The advantages that this student has over the other are quite apparent (Hispanic Heritage Foundation, et al., 1-2).

When students do not have access to broadband services outside of the classroom, they are not the only ones who suffer. The students’ teachers, schools and districts are forced to make some very tough judgement calls: eliminate digital assignments all together because not everyone can access them, let the underprivileged students take an academic blow at the benefit of the connected majority, or continue giving digital assignments and create special and expensive accommodations for those without access.

School districts and administrators are also affected in one other crucial way. In a 2015 study by Pew Research Center, 50% of educators in low-income school districts reported that the lack of students with access to digital technologies at home has stopped the progression and/or application of digital learning initiatives. Digital learning initiatives can help students develop technology skills and familiarity that are critical to success in today’s world. The inability to implement these initiatives has had a negative impact on the quality of education that students in these school districts receive. As a result, this continues to widen the gap between these students and their peers who attend technology-enriched schools.

Lack of internet at home affects parents as well. Since the majority of grading systems are now completely online, unconnected parents are unable to keep track of their children’s academic performance and are left unaware when their child is struggling and in need of assistance. All of these negative effects of the digital divide are clear obstacles to an underprivileged students’ ability to complete their schoolwork and compete with their peers who have access to the technologies that they do not.

Another impact of the digital divide is that underprivileged individuals have a shortage of educational and skill-development opportunities resulting in the perpetuation of socioeconomic and other disparities. Over the years, a substantial amount of our individual careers, and the economy as a whole, have demanded more technical skills and experience. The daily tasks and responsibilities of professionals in the U.S. are becoming progressively more reliant on technical skills each year. This is a trend that certainly isn’t slowing down in any foreseeable future.

Today, the majority of students are consuming and producing online content at very high rates. In order to compete with one’s peers in the future job market, it is essential to be connected on a regular basis or it is likely you will be left behind. A lack of information is a lack of opportunity to succeed. The absence of digital resources in the classroom and at home, greatly interferes with an individual’s future potential. As more and more resources and services go digital, those without connectivity are at an enormous disadvantage. The skill and experience gap between those who are regularly connected and those who are not will become only more and more visible and detrimental in the future job market.

In the modern-day, we rely on technology for just about everything. Whether it’s mapping transportation routes, looking up health information, finding government resources, or searching and applying for jobs and educational opportunities, technology is an integral part of daily life. Not having proper access to these immense online resources is a real set-back. Although most of us see the internet as a basic necessity, for a family who is struggling to keep the kids fed and rent paid, internet access is an unaffordable luxury.

In 2016, a study done by Victoria Rideout and Vikki S. Katz found that cost is the dominant reason as for why families are not connected at all, or as much as they would like to be. Consequently, those who could benefit from digital technologies the most, do not have them.

Due to the lack of tax revenue in poor neighborhoods, infrastructure is weak and telecommunication facilities are few. Because affluent neighborhoods are far more likely to attract investors and developing companies looking for a place to plant their roots, the impoverished neighborhoods are left to fend for themselves and the socioeconomic divide between these communities is intensified.

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Social Impacts, Consequences of Digital Divide: Income, Education. (2022, Jun 25). Retrieved from

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